Paruyr Hayrikyan
Hayrikyan 2011.jpg
Hayrikyan in 2011
Personal details
BornJuly 5, 1949
Nubarashen, Yerevan, Soviet Union
Political partyNational United Party (1966-1987)
Union for National Self-Determination (1987-)
OccupationPolitician, composer

Paruyr Arshaviri Hayrikyan (Traditional Armenian: Պարոյր Արշավիրի Հայրիկեան, Eastern Armenian: Պարույր Արշավիրի Հայրիկյան, born July 5, 1949, Yerevan) is an Armenian politician and former Soviet dissident.[1][2] Hayrikyan is one of the founders and most active leaders of the democratic movement in the Soviet Union.[3] He is also a writer and an accomplished composer. He is the author of several patriotic songs popular in Armenia and Armenian Diaspora.


Hayrikyan is a descendant of natives of Van and Constantinople. While he was in Nubarashen secondary school, Hayrikyan established the Union of Armenian Youth. In 1966 Hayrikyan was admitted to the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute. In 1967, he became a member of Armenia's underground National United Party (NUP). As a member of NUP Hayrikyan founded a new youth organization called Shant.[4] Hayrikyan risen to head of the NUP in 1968. He managed to establish several groups of the NUP, and to publish 5,000 copies of Erkounk ("Torments") newspaper. The newspaper bore the motto: "Free Armenia or Death!" On March 29, 1969, Hayrikyan was arrested by KGB and sentenced to 4 years in prison in a special camp for political prisoners in Mordovia.

In Soviet times, Hayrikyan was placed several times in penal labor camps for his political views and activities (he spent about 18 years in Soviet prison, including more than 300 days in solitary confinement).[5]

Paruyr Hayrikyan in 2016
Paruyr Hayrikyan in 2016

In 1987, Paruyr Hayrikyan became leader and founder of the Union for National Self-Determination (UNSD) political party. He was eventually stripped of Soviet citizenship and exiled to Ethiopia after his accusations that the Soviet leadership instigated the Sumgait pogroms of Armenian population in Azerbaijan. In Addis Ababa Hayrikyan applied for and was granted asylum by the United States, where he remained for some time.[6][7] During this period, Paruyr Hayrikyan acquired wide popularity, and was elected Chairman of the International Coordinating Center of the national democratic movement of the USSR, "Democracy and Independence". On May 20, 1990, while he was still in exile in the USA, he was elected a member of the Armenian Supreme Council. In 1990, following pressure of a group of United States senators led by Bob Dole, Mikhail Gorbachev restored Hayrikyan's citizenship and allowed him to return. Since then Hayrikyan has taken an active part in Armenian political life.[1] As a candidate for 1991 Armenian presidential election he was ranked second with 7% votes. Hayrikyan's supporters claimed that there were violations during the campaign, including an act of violence committed against him and his supporters in the village of Paravakar (Tavush Province). These charges were subsequently judged to be true by the Armenian court.[4]

Since 1992, as an appointed Commandant of Goris, Hayrikyan took measures to ensure the efficient defense and organizing settlements of refugees in the Syunik and Artsakh. In 1995 he was re-elected to the Armenian Parliament as a leader of the UNSD faction. In the late 1990s Hayrikyan served as an Advisor to the President of Armenia, and from 1998 to 2003 he worked as ombudsman (Chairman of the Human Rights Committee) of Armenia.

On 31 January 2013, he was shot and wounded during his bid for the presidency in 2013.[8] The assassination attempt was organized by Vardan Sedrakyan, another candidate in the 2013 election, and carried out by two of his associates. Sedrakyan was convicted to 14 years imprisonment for organizing the attempt on Hayrikyan's life.[9] According to official results, Hayrikyan ranked fourth in the election. He took part in the June–July 2015 anti-government protests, but his appearance among the demonstrators in Yerevan with a European Union flag was met with whistles and criticism.[10]

Hayrikyan wrote the autobiographical novel On a Quest of the Light in 2001. In this book Hayrikyan presents "his experiences as a freedom fighter through a letter to the love of his youth whom he lost during his eighteen years in prison and exile".[11][self-published source] Besides to the dissident movement in Armenia, the book also discuss dissident activities in other Soviet republics. In 2015 the book was translated into English and published in the USA.

Political activities

Paruyr Hayrikyan in 1990
Paruyr Hayrikyan in 1990

The National United Party was founded in 1966 on April 24 by Haykaz Khachatryan, Stephan Zatikyan and Shahen Harutyunyan. When the founders of the party were imprisoned in 1968, Hayrikyan became the head of the National United Party (NUP). The main goals of the NUP were the independence of Soviet Armenia and Soviet Russia and the elimination of the consequences of the Armenian Genocide (1915–1923). In 1973, the National United Party reelected Hayrikyan as its president. In the same year, Hayrikyan wrote his seminal political pamphlet "The Road to Independence through Referendum Strategy." On February 12, 1974, he was again arrested. During the trial Hayrikyan conducted himself as a consistent supporter of independence and civic rights. According to Jewish writer Mikhail Heifetz, not only Armenians, but also many other Soviet dissidents were among the members and supporters of NUP (Viacheslav Chornovil, Vasyl Stus, Eduard Kuznetsov, and others).[12] On November 22, 1974, after the Hayrikyan's new trial, Andrei Sakharov signed an Open letter supporting Hayrikyan.[13]

Union for National Self-Determination party was established by Paruyr Hayrikyan in September 1987. Union for National Self-Determination (UNSD) was the first openly operating democratic organization within the territory of the USSR. UNSD published the "Independence" weekly newspaper starting from October 24 of 1987. The "Independence" weekly newspaper was the first alternative political periodical in the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

Personal life

Paruyr Hayrikyan signing his books during a presentation in 2016
Paruyr Hayrikyan signing his books during a presentation in 2016

Hayrikyan speaks Armenian, Russian, English and Latvian, and has a good command of French, Ukrainian and Lithuanian. Hayrikyan was married to Yelena Sirotenko, they have three children and three grandchildren.